Flashback: Surrogate mom has 6 pregnancies

by Katya Lezin

Angela, her husband Joel, and her three sons in 2012.
Angela Richardson-Mook, Alcea Co-founder and Executive Director, has been an advocate for third-party reproduction since she first became a surrogate. In 2012, she was featured in the Charlotte Observer, and she was (and still is!) proud to speak out for the rights of surrogates and parents who seek to build their families through third-party reproduction.

Originally published in the Charlotte Observer by Katya Lezin.

“I am meant to be pregnant,” Angela Mook, 32, says. “I feel great while pregnant and I always bounce back no problem.”

Mook, a Providence Plantation resident who works in project design and operations management at Bank of America, knows about giving birth. She’s been pregnant ten times. Her three sons, Joel, 13, Logan, 10, and Jordan, 6, keep her and her husband, Joel, 34, busy.

And what of her other three pregnancies?

Those are children she carried for other couples as a surrogate. Mook has been a surrogate three times, twice for one couple (giving birth to Jeremiah in 2006 and his sister, Rachel, in 2008) and once for another couple (giving birth to Jacob one year ago), all residents of New York.

Each time she was pregnant as a surrogate, Mook would find herself having to explain the surrogacy arrangement to well-wishers. The reaction was generally positive, but people would inevitably ask her if she felt any angst about carrying a child that was not hers.

“I had no issues giving them up,” Mook says. “Because they were not mine in the first place.”

She remained intentionally detached during each pregnancy, a marked change from carrying her own children, and simply treated it like a business arrangement, albeit a somewhat unusual one.

“I didn’t view it as giving up the baby,” Mook said, “but rather that I was giving it back.”

Mook first learned about surrogacy and egg donation while a student at Kesston College in Wichita, Kan. Married right out of high school, Mook had Joel while a freshman in college, and Logan was born the summer before her senior year.

That fall, she attended a career fair and was intrigued by a booth that was advertising the need for college-educated egg donors. Mook took a brochure since she was not a candidate while still nursing her son, and filed it for possible follow-up down the road.

Fast forward to July 2005, when the Mooks moved to Charlotte for Joel’s job at Bank of America. Mook had just had Jordan and was living outside of Kansas, away from family and friends, for the first time in her life.

“It seemed like a good time to call,” Mook recalls. “And reopen that door.”

When she did so, she learned she was not a good candidate for egg donation because her adoption made her unable to answer questions about her medical family history. She was, however, an excellent candidate for surrogacy.

She’d had three successful and uneventful pregnancies, she was young and healthy, and, perhaps most importantly, she was done with having children of her own.

“I felt that my family was complete,” Mook says, so she was not conflicted about adding to her brood.

While the financial rewards are great (Mook has been paid as much as $25,000 to serve as a surrogate, in addition to having all of her medical expenses covered), Mook thinks it is a mistake to do it solely for that reason. “You have to give yourself injections and give up your life for a year,” Mook said.

For her, a key motivation has been being able to provide a child to loving couples who wanted one desperately but were unable to conceive.

The first couple for whom she was a surrogate, and for whom she was able to carry a second child, is a gay couple who have become like family to the Mooks.

“We visit them in New York, they visit us here, and we are very much a part of each other’s lives,” Mook said. She derives great satisfaction from knowing that she was able to reconcile their desire to have a child with being able to live their lives as gay men.

Mook is not averse to doing it again, should the right situation arise. But she wants to be clear that no one is being taken advantage of and that there is often a misconception about surrogacy in this country.

“I have a stable marriage and a good career, as does my husband,” Mook said. “We don’t need the money.”

As an adopted child, Mook finds it uniquely rewarding to be able to provide children to other infertile couples.

It has served as a powerful way to convey to her own children that there are lots of different kinds of families in the world,